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The recent U.S. mid-term elections saw attempts of the Russian government to interfere and tamper with the election process. On December 2nd, 2018, U.S. Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, alleged that Russia “tried to muck around” in the mid-terms, confirming what senior intelligence and law enforcement officials had been forecasting earlier this year. The run-up to these most recent elections was met with great caution by authorities. On October 19th, a Russian Woman, Elena Khusyaynova, was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with conspiring to meddle in the mid-terms. She was also identified as the chief accountant of “Project Lakhta,” which is understood to be an ongoing Russian interference operation run by Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, better known as “Putin’s Chef.”
In February 2018, a board of 6 U.S. intelligence chiefs, including the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, unanimously warned American lawmakers of the undeniable threat of interference that the November mid-term vote would face. The warning was echoed again in August, with Coats stating, “[The threat is] Real. It is continuing. And we’re doing everything we can to have a legitimate election that the American people can have trust in.” Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, in a UN Security Council meeting on September 26th, President Trump accused China of efforts to interfere in the U.S. election without citing any specific evidence. Trump’s allegations were denied by the Chinese officials, with the Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, replying, “China has all along followed the principle of non-interference in other country’s domestic affairs.” Russian President Vladimir Putin is not directly responding to the recent allegations offered by Mattis and continues to push the same rhetoric of denying that any interference has ever taken place.
While the most recent round of warnings by American government officials is nothing new, these warnings do suggest that the possibility of election interference continues to pose a large threat to the United States. However, with President Trump overlooking his senior intelligence officials’ high confidence, and Russia continuously attempting to influence the voting process since 2016, America finds itself in a unique position of paralysis and thus far lacks any clear policy response.
This October, an election security bill was proposed, but failed to pass the draft stage in time for mid-term elections. Politico reports that no substantial progress will be made on the bill before 2019. The bill itself tries to address only a few of the many concerns surrounding the recent allegations of the vote and if passed will increase coordination between the Department of Homeland Security and the State and Federal Election agencies.
These most recent election interference attempts have certainly met far more resistance from the United States than the meddling campaign run during the 2016 presidential election. There certainly exists a greater awareness of such potential dangers like the attacks on the voting process. However, the key challenges facing the U.S., in terms of successfully countering any future election tampering, will certainly take more time than the current administration will be in office for.